Elections to Watch
You may be forgiven for thinking otherwise, but American elections aren’t over. After the interminable horror of the 2015–2016 election cycle, it may be tempting to sink back into comfortable apathy. And you should! You should absolutely. Politics in the 21st century is a ceaseless cavalcade of horror and misery that brings catharsis to no one. It will drain your spirit until you die. Do literally anything else. Go.
Ok, if you absolutely must continue feeding parts of your body into this unfeeling meat grinder, then you should know about important bellwether elections coming up. It’s good to keep abreast of political developments; you can either learn just how hopeless our situation really is, or you can be fed false hope to rot your soul from the inside.
Let’s rot some souls.
Han Solo, Captain of the Millennium Falcon (nee Jon Ossoff) is a 30 (or perhaps 31? Wikipedia isn’t sure) year old former NatSec wonk. He’s very young, and so far this has been the chief thrust of the attacks against him. Republicans started off running the above in a ludicrous ad against him, possibly hoping that associating their young opponent with one of the most beloved characters in sci-fi history and a byword for roguish charm would, I dunno, hurt him somehow. It didn’t work and they’ve switched to the old “rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi” line, which probably works better when she’s Speaker.
This seat was Tom Price’s and opened up when he was tapped by Trump to lead HHS. Before that it belonged to Johnny Isakson, now a sitting Senator, and before that Moon Commander Newt Gingrich, so it’s a blood red district. Because this is a special election, all candidates run on one ballot; if nobody cracks 50%, there will be a top-two runoff on June 20th.
Early voting signs are very encouraging for Ossoff, who benefits from the opposition being divided between disgraced former Komen executive/SoS Karen Handel, former state senator Judson Hill, and businessman/possible evil shapeshifting demonic clown Bob Gray. Trump only carried this district by 1.5% despite it typically going for the Republican presidential candidate by double digits, so there may be some vulnerability there. If Ossoff can’t clear 50%, which seems likely, he’s got some tough road ahead in the one on one. This is an R+14 district, according to the Cook PVI. This is worth watching even if he loses, though. If Ossoff gets within 5% Republicans will panic. If he wins, expect all hell to break loose.
Democrats know this and have been flooding the race with resources; Ossoff has raised a mammoth amount of cash and Alyssa Milano has been driving people to the polls, which is a thing, I suppose. Don’t hold your breath for GA-06 to turn blue, but if it does, expect the impact among the Congressional GOP to be roughly equivalent to someone burning down Tortilla Coast.
Everything’s bigger in Montana — except, sadly, the population, which means they just get the one Representative in the House. Ryan Zinke has gone off to serve as Secretary of the Interior, which means it’s time to corral up your cattle, lace up your city boots and get (or “git”) to campaignin’. Montana, despite being about as red as it’s possible to be while remaining in the visible spectrum, tends to elect Democrats to statewide office with alarming frequency. One of their Senators is Jon Tester, who got in in the first place by beating insanely corrupt moron Conrad Burns and has somehow hung on since then. The Dems control a number of statewide offices as well, including governor and SoS. Still, it’s always a bruising fight.
Republicans have nominated Greg Gianforte, yet another of the interchangeable right-wing millionaires who like to fund creation science and anti-gay groups. He’s as boring as he sounds. Democrats were considering sitting State Rep Amanda Curtis but ended up picking country musician Rob Quist. Quist has no electoral experience but is hugely popular. He backed Bernie Sanders early, supports Medicare for All, and is pro-choice. He is an excellent test case of the idea that progressive ideas won’t play in red states; if he wins I won’t expect the alt-center idiots to retract their claims that “triangulated centrism is what the people want!” but I’ll have yet another piece of evidence to clobber them with.
Again, this is a seat that has historically been dominated by Republicans, but Democratic performance at the state level has been fairly good in other races. There’s a real opening here for Quist. Gianforte’s only selling point is the R next to his name, and while that’s a powerful draw in deep-red Montana, it might not be enough. Again, this will be a powerful signal. If Quist wins I would hope to see more progressive policy being pushed in red states. When left-wing policies are actually campaign on, they’re staggeringly popular.
With outgoing Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe term-limited, Virginia’s gubernatorial race is becoming unexpectedly spicy. The race itself isn’t until November, but the primary is June 13th, and that’ll be interesting enough. McAuliffe is somewhat popular, but not overwhelmingly so. The expectation was that his lieutenant governor Ralph Northam would pick up the nomination and campaign on a platform of continuity. Of course, the ascendance of Trump changed that. Almost nowhere in the country is Trump less popular than NoVa, and population distribution in the state has weighted the DC suburbs more and more heavily over the past decade. Bland continuity holds less appeal than it once did.
Northam, a former Army physician, is a “fiscal conservative and social liberal.” He was courted in the past by Republicans hoping to get him to switch parties, but he’s held the line, sensing that the natural home for a wealthy person who wants to get wealthier yet doesn’t hate gay people is the Democratic party. This is a Bold New Era, and DINOs are a dying breed. Charging in to oppose Northam is former Rep. Tom Perriello. Defeated in the 2010 wave, he’s hung on as a diplomat for the past few years, and he’s running now with a message of economic populism right out of the Sanders playbook. This is odd because he was a Clinton backer and his voting record is fairly moderate, but he seems to sense that inequality is a winning issue, and having voted against the bank bailouts doesn’t hurt.
Perriello’s biggest problem is the same as Sanders’s: nobody knows who he is. A former diplomat and one-term representative from a red district, most of the Dems familiar with him are careerists miffed that he’s interfering in Northam’s anointing. Still, his message is a good one, and he’s about as inoffensive as it gets when it comes to economic populism. He’s squeaky clean, experienced, and young-ish (42), which means if Democrats are smart they’ll seize on him as a banner bearer. Of course they’re fighting him tooth and nail, and it’s not like he’s perfect; he voted for the Stupak amendment to the ACA, more anti-choice nonsense, though he has professed pro-choice principles and voted that way most of the time (and had the endorsement of NARAL back when he was in Congress). The biggest question for Perriello is if he can get Our Revolution, the Sanders PAC, on board. If he can, he might have the resources to give Northam a real challenge.
On the Republican side, a similar principle is at work. The two contenders are Ed Gillespie, a completely bog-standard Republican, and insane person Corey Stewart. Gillespie is pro-pipeline, anti-abortion, anti-ACA, and lobbied for Enron; pretty much your archetypal hypocrite plutocrat leech.
Corey Stewart, on the other hand, is completely bonkers. He has publicly called both Gillespie and outgoing governor McAuliffe “cucks.” He wants to hand out an AR-15 for Christmas in support of “constitutional carry” (e.g. illegal carry). He blamed Northam and Hillary Clinton for the killing of police officers in Texas. He held a rally against illegal immigration and, after being kicked out of two venues, declared it a “victory for free speech.” He was briefly Trump’s campaign chair in Virginia, but was fired after protesting in front of the RNC when they pulled support in the state. There is no way he will win the nomination, but it’s funny as hell to watch.
There are other races of interest, like NJ-Gov, KS-4, and of course, VI-Sen. Looking ahead, we have a lot of work to do; bad Dems to primary, good Dems to recruit, and eventually, a majority to retake. It happens one seat a time. If you care, please get involved: but please, for your own sanity and well being: don’t care.